Updated: Jun 22, 2022
In our professional lives, we all play the role of a leader in one way or another. As direct leaders or indirect influencers, our struggles are similar.
#PBJAM research and discussions with industry leaders have led to the following key struggles that we all battle with:
Prioritizing tasks Every morning, as the work day starts, we all have to decide what to do with our work time (whether that is 4 hrs, 8 hrs, or 16 hrs). An example that was discussed was as follows: "Imagine yourself in a room where the floor is littered with currency notes of different denominations, say from 1$ to 100$. If you focus on 1$ bills, you can spend a lot of effort and gain little. On the other hand, if you focus first on 100$ bills and then if time is left you go to the lower denomination notes, you end up with a lot more cash." Figuring out which are the 100$ bills in your day every day when you start your work is a critical skill and a struggle.
Firefighting One of the main reasons why most of us have jobs is because the work doesn't go the way it is supposed to go. There are things that go wrong, deviate, don't work, fail or people who don't perform, don't show up, or have the wrong attitude, ... you name it. In such an environment, how quickly we can respond to a fire and how well can we put it out defines our success. Our ability to effectively fight fires as they come is a critical skill and a struggle.
Risk Management As a professional, managing efforts across different tasks is critical. Allocation of resources to the tasks depends on your risk assessment (does not do/delaying/not putting enough effort in this task puts me/my team/my function/my customers/my business at risk?) and management (Do I address this myself? do I delegate? do I ask for help? Do I defer?). Assessing and managing the risk allows you as a professional and as a leader to effectively utilize and motivate your team/resources. And this is a daily struggle.
Delegating workload and responsibilities No matter how much we wish to be able to create time, we all get 24 hours per day and have to figure out how to utilize them effectively. As a leader, you not only have a time constraint, but also a skill constraint (you don't know it all). Delegating the workload as well as empowering your teams with responsibilities and decision-making powers can make or break you as a leader. Delegating to your colleagues and even to your senior management is also a critical skill that can free up your resources and offer new opportunities for value creation. There is always a fine balance in such delegation where you want to load your team enough but not more where they start breaking/burning off, or in the case of your colleagues/senior management, you want to delegate enough to create value but without coming across as someone who is shirking from their responsibilities. This fine delegation-delivery balance is a daily struggle.
Keeping eye on disruptive events While we are busy with daily work, there are always disruptive forces on the horizon. They might be in technology, processes, culture, or people. It is humanly impossible to predict what will happen with such disruptive forces. However, as a good professional, you have to keep an eye on them and figure out when/how to engage with them. Many a time, this struggle is lonely as your team or colleagues may not find relevance or may not have the bandwidth.